TPM News

Brian Melendez, the state Democratic chairman in Minnesota, just gave TPM this statement in response to Norm Coleman's comments that a do-over election could be necessary:

Former Senator Coleman's sudden interest in a "do-over" election is astonishing both for its ignorance of the law and for its ignorance of political reality -- or at least his feigned ignorance. First, the people of Minnesota went to the polls in November and elected a new United States senator; it's bad enough that Norm Coleman has been aggressively trying to disenfranchise so many of them throughout the recount and now during his election-contest trial, but now he wants to disenfranchise all of them.

Norm Coleman is a lawyer and he knows better. I hope that Governor Pawlenty will quickly disown Coleman's shameless scheme for a back-door appointment that will get him back the seat that he couldn't hold on to in a free and fair election.

Coleman has every right under the law to contest his recount loss, but he and his spinmeisters need to show some respect to Minnesotans' intelligence by acknowledging the fairness of our justice system and not fabricating scenarios that disregard Minnesota law.

Zesty and dated rock tended to accompany speakers here at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Creedence Clearwater Revival "Down on the Corner" for John Bolton, Smashmouth's cover of "I'm a Believer" for Mike Pence, early Beatles--"Love Me Do"--at the Building a Conservative Hispanic Coalition seminar and Kenny Loggins hit from the Top Gun soundtrack, "Danger Zone". If Lee Greenwood is here, I haven't heard him.

In addition to the speakers and seminars, there's a giant exhibition area where different conservative outfits are peddling their wares. My favorite bumper sitcker for sale was "Obama Bin Lyin'. Impeach Him Now." I picked up an "It's OK to be Ex Gay" button. There are rows and rows of conservative talk show hosts broadcasting from here and a bloggers row. There are pro life groups and pro gun groups and anti global warming groups. I was handed an ice cream sandwich by a woman dressed as a polar bear. When I asked her what she was advocating she lifted her mask and cheerfully told me that the polar bears were fine and that conservative principles would do more for the environment than government.

We have some videos coming that will, if you haven't watched any of the proceedings, give you a flavor of the conservative movement as it deals with its exile.

A couple of thoughts.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that most people here think that what cost them the election was not adherence to conservative principles but deviance from them. In this view, Republicans were too squishy and moderate. They carried the weight of Congressional scandals, bloated budgets and GOP-sponsored social initiatives like No Child Left Behind and the expansion of Medicare to include a prescription drug benefit. There's not a lot of soul searching about policy.

I was surprised by the session on building a Hispanic Conservative Majority. It wasn't that well attended but those conservatives who went got to hear a blistering attack on the anti-immigration tone and policies of the Republican party and a passionate plea for an immigration policy that doesn't revolve around deporting illegal immigrants. If there's going to be a rethinking of Republican orthodoxy maybe it'll be here.

In general, though, the faithful are sticking to their creed. When Tucker Carlson, the conservative commentator, suggested that conservatives ought to start more New York Times media outlets of their own, dedicated to reporting, he got jeers. He tried to make it clear to the crowd that he thought the Times was liberal and distorting but they were at least dedicated to fact gathering. This small bit concession to the Times was too much for some in the crowd.

More later when we get the videos.

The Coleman campaign may have just given away the store on a very important point in their challenge to the Minnesota election results -- conceding that missing ballots from the recount that were still included in the final numbers did in fact exist.

During the recount, a deep-blue Minneapolis precinct came up with over 130 less ballots than were counted on Election Night, costing Al Franken a net 46 votes. The city eventually concluded that an envelope full of ballots labeled "1 of 5" was missing. After it wasn't recovered, the state canvassing board agreed to revert to the Election Night total for this precinct, rather than disenfranchise these voters.

The Coleman campaign vowed to contest it in court. Their position had been that there was no evidence the ballots existed, citing an earlier hypothesis by the city that ballots might have counted twice by the machines on Election Night -- which the city had quickly discarded when the precinct roster nearly matched the number of Election Night votes. And even if they do exist, the Coleman camp has still said they can't be included in the recount.

Read More →

The Dusty Foggo story has never reflected well on Porter Goss -- the man who, as CIA director, gave Foggo the number 3 job at the agency. But it looks like we didn't know the half of it.

Congressional Quarterly has a juicy scoop:

Kyle "Dusty" Foggo's CIA dossier included allegations that he was sharing a woman with a suspected Russian mole, according to a top former spy agency official and other sources.

CIA Director Porter J. Goss knew about the allegation when he hired Foggo to be the agency's executive director, its third highest official, an aide said today.

But Merrell Moorhead, an aide to Goss at the CIA from 2004 to 2006, said CIA security officials later withdrew that and other serious allegations about Foggo's record and "gave him a clean bill of health."


One former senior CIA official told CQ:
Everybody knew about him and Felix," said a former senior CIA official, who talked about Foggo on condition of anonymity. "It's scandalous that Goss hired him.


This news jibes with a report yesterday by the national security reporter Laura Rozen that Goss was aware of problems in Foggo's counter-intelligence file when he hired him.

Ben Ginsberg, the Coleman spokesman/lawyer who has held colorful press conferences attacking the court, the reliability of the election results, and just about everything under the sun that looked bad for Norm Coleman, is no longer seeking to actually work for Norm in the courtroom.

Ginsberg, who was on George W. Bush's legal team during the Florida recount in 2000, has been holding his daily press conferences since the beginning of this trial, billing himself as a Coleman attorney. But it was only last week that he filed his motion for admission pro hac vice -- the filing that an out-of-state lawyer is supposed to make in order to appear before a local court.

Just today, Team Coleman submitted this motion to withdraw the request, which hadn't yet been granted: "Mr. Ginsberg will not participate in the trial and no longer seeks the court's permission to do so."

The real question now is whether Ginsberg will still continue to hold his amazing press conferences -- for example, yesterday he made a now-debunked charge that a heavily Dem county had illegally included 300 bad absentee ballots -- or whether he's now out of this case completely. We could find out tonight.

Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in.

We thought we were done with the topic of George Will and climate change. But now we've gotten an advanced look at Will's latest column, set to run tomorrow in the Washington Post and in syndication. And it amounts to a stubborn defense of the amazing global warming denialist column he published earlier this month, that was ripped apart by just about everyone and their mother -- including us.

Will's new effort is framed as a response to a New York Times story, by science reporter Andrew Revkin, from earlier this week, which asserted that Will's earlier column, published February 15, was guilty of "inaccuracies and overstatements," in the view of experts. (That Revkin story itself provoked some blogospheric ire by equating Will's out-and-out distortions with some minor exaggerations on the other side by Al Gore -- but that's a whole other story.)

In the new column, Will makes two central claims, one directed narrowly at Revkin, the other more broadly at critics of the February 15 column.

First, he suggests that Revkin is guilty of sloppy journalism, noting that the Times writer doesn't name the experts who judged the February 15 column inaccurate, and adding that Revkin contacted him for comment only late in the afternoon of the day before his story ran.

Revkin didn't immediately respond to an email from TPMmuckraker seeking a response to those charges.

Second, Will stands by the substance of the February 15 column, maintaining, in the case of the key factual dispute, that he had accurately reported the findings of a respected climate research center on the question of sea-ice levels. Though the center has since put out a statement disavowing Will's use of its data, Will claims that last month it posted confirmation of that very data on its web site -- and, getting all bloggy, includes a link.

We'll leave it to others to parse the finer points of this defense -- though it's immediately noticeable that Will doesn't mention that the center's confirmation of its findings notes that the data concerns global sea ice levels, rather than northern hemispheric levels. Global levels, it says, "may not be the most relevant indicator."

But after Will and Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt declined to answer TPMmuckraker's questions about the column -- leaving that task to the paper's ombudsman, who cited the paper's "multi-layer editing process" -- it's certainly intriguing that Will has chosen to wade back into the muck.

Oh, boy. Yesterday, Coleman spokesman/attorney Ben Ginsberg held a dramatic press conference to announce that 300 clearly invalid absentee ballot envelopes -- roughly 150 of them weren't even signed by the voters -- had been improperly opened and counted Election Night in the Democratic stronghold of St. Louis County (Duluth). It was a major part of the Coleman camp's push to undermine the legitimacy of the whole vote count, possibly in pursuit of a new election.

But now Noah Kunin at The Uptake looked into this with the county officials, showing them quite a few examples, and they've told him a different story: It appears these were not actually the envelopes used by those voters -- they were for in-house use by the local election workers, and these votes were legal.

Read More →

The Associated Press reports that Dusty Foggo, the former CIA number 3 who pleaded guilty to steering contracts to his friend the defense contractor Brent Wilkes, has been sentenced to 37 months in prison -- just what prosecutors were recommending.

Foggo received tens of thousands of dollars worth of lavish gifts and vacations, in exchange for helping Wilkes get no-bid contracts, according to prosecutors.

Wilkes has pleaded guilty to bribing then-GOP congressman Duke Cunningham.

Yesterday, we reported on a treasure trove of court documents released in the case, which shed light on Foggo's scheme.

The Minnesota election court giveth to Coleman, and now they taketh away.

After granting Coleman mercy on a serious defeat he had suffered yesterday, the court has now shot him down on a separate matter, granting in full a Franken motion to forbid Coleman from obtaining questionable evidence from the counties, in Coleman's effort to get more ballots for himself counted.

Two days ago, the Coleman camp sent e-mails to county officials, asking them to certify that selected absentee voters whose ballots have been rejected did in fact meet all the legal requirements pertaining to voter-registration, and that they didn't also vote on Election Day. Coleman was pursuing one side of his case -- that votes for himself weren't counted that should be -- and wanted local officials to be able to phone it in rather than come to court. The Franken camp filed a motion in limine to forbid this maneuver, arguing it violated the rules of evidence by seeking out new documents without the ability to properly cross-examine the officials.

The court said that Coleman can submit pre-existing government documents such as voter registrars, Election Day precinct rosters, etc. But this new evidence simply isn't trustworthy -- they would be new judgments of government officials, specifically solicited by a single party in the middle of litigation.

Read More →

TPMLivewire